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H-1C Registered Nurse Working in a Health Professional Shortage Area as Determined by the Department of Labor

This classification expired as of December 20, 2009.

The H-1C nonimmigrant temporary worker classification is for foreign nurses coming to the United States temporarily to perform services as a registered nurse in a health professional shortage area as determined by the Department of Labor (DOL).

The H-1C nonimmigrant category was introduced in 1999 specifically to address the shortage of nurses in the United States.  Applying for an H-1C nonimmigrant visa is a multi-step process that involves coordination from DOL and USCIS.  Prior to filing a petition with USCIS for an H-1C visa, DOL must provide an attestation to petitioning hospitals certifying that they meet the qualifications as required by regulation.  Among the qualifications, hospitals are required to be located in a “health professional shortage area.” 

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an H-1C visa you must:

  • Have a full and unrestricted nursing license in the country where your nursing education was obtained, or have received a nursing education and license in the United States
  • Be authorized by the appropriate U.S. State Board of Nursing to practice within the state
  • Have passed the examination given by the Commission on Graduates for Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or have a full and unrestricted license to practice as an Registered Nurse in the state where you will work, or have a full and unrestricted Registered Nurse’s license in any state and have received temporary authorization to practice as an Registered Nurse in the state where you will work. For more information, please see the Commission on Graduates for Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) link to the right
  • Have been fully qualified and eligible under the state laws of the state of intended employment to practice as a Registered Nurse immediately upon admission to the United States

The employer must meet edibility criteria in order to file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, under the H-1C Program. To qualify, the U.S. employer must:

  • Be a “subpart D” hospital under the Social Security Act
  • Be located in a “Health Professional Shortage Area” 
  • Have at least 190 acute care beds
  • Have a Medicare population of no less than 35%  
  • Have a Medicaid population of no less than 28% 
  • Be certified by the Department of Labor

Application Process
The Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, must be filed by a U.S. employer hospital that has received a notice of acceptance of the attestation for H-1C Nonimmigrant Nurses, from the Department of Labor.

For more information, see the “Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor” link to the right.

Supporting Documents

The Form I-129 must include the following documents:

  • Current copy of the Department of Labor’s acceptance of the filing of an attestation on Form ETA-9081, Attestation for H-1C Nonimmigrant Nurses
  • Statement from the facility describing any limitation which the laws of the state or jurisdiction of intended employment place on your services
  • Evidence that you are or will be authorized by a State Board of Nursing to engage in registered nurse practice in a state or U.S. territory or possession, and you are or will be practicing at a facility which provides health care services
  • Evidence that you have passed the examination given by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), or have obtained a full and unrestricted (permanent) license to practice as a Registered Nurse in the state of intended employment or have obtained a full and unrestricted (permanent) license in any state or territory of the U.S. and received temporary authorization to practice as a Registered Nurse in the state of intended employment
  • Evidence that you have obtained a full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the country where you obtained nursing education or have received nursing education in the U.S.
  • Evidence that you are fully qualified and eligible under the laws (including such temporary or interim licensing requirements which authorize you to be employed) governing the place of intended employment to practice as a Registered Nurse immediately upon admission to the U.S.

Applying for a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

If your Form I-129 is approved, we will send an approval notice on a Form I-797, Notice of Action, to your employer, who in turn will forward it to you.  A Form I-797 approval notice may be used to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Before applying for your visa, please check with the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for their specific application requirements.

The following is required on the appointment date:

  • Valid passport and evidence of all previously issued visas
  • Original of Form I-797
  • Form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, completed and signed (see the “Form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Application” link to the right)
  • Passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least 6  months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S
  • Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which is required for all male nonimmigrant visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, regardless of nationality and regardless of where they apply (see the “Form DS-157, Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application” link to the right)
  • One 2”x2” photograph

Period of Stay/Extension of Stay

Initial Period of Stay

Extension of Stay

 Up to 3 years

Total stay is limited to 3 years. An extension of stay to complete the 3 year period of admission may be granted. However, an extension of stay may not be granted to extend the period of admission beyond the initial 3 year period of time.

Change of Employer

H-1C nonimmigrant classification is limited to employment with the specific hospital that filed the petition. A change of employer requires your new employer to file a new Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. You cannot begin working for new employer until your Form I-129 is approved.  

Family of H-1C Visa Holders

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age are entitled to H-4 classification. H-4 is the nonimmigrant classification for dependents of H principal aliens. Your dependents may not work in the United States under the H-4 classification.

H-1C Visa Cap

Only 500 H-1C visas will be issued each fiscal year. Also, there are numerical limitations for each state based on the state’s population. The cap for states with populations in excess of 9 million is 50 per fiscal year. The cap for states with populations of 9 million or less is 25 per fiscal year.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/17/2013